Feist Credit: courtesy the artist

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In recent interviews Leslie Feist has said that since her 2011 album Metals she’s been engaged in quiet introspection about whether making music is really what her soul aches to do. As she told Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times in April, “I wanted to make sure it was a legitimate drive, coming from a really honest and humble place, not because it’s what I do.” Her terrific, complicated new album Pleasure (Interscope) provides an answer. Defiantly raw, with tape hiss filling out the sonic canvas—and free of the smothering compression of her earliest work—the record features Feist ruminating on the ambiguities that pile up as the years pass. She aims for a Zen-like acceptance, whether observing our intertwined existences on the multivalent title track or struggling with the changes that can push people apart even against their wishes: on “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” she sings, “I felt some certainty that must have died,” before adding with a sense of anger, “Because how could I live if you’re still alive?” While the closing tune, “Young Up,” functions as a kind of buck-up jolt of positivity, the rest of the songs are generally quiet and endowed with a sense of tension that rarely ebbs, whether it’s from an unexpected sample of metal band Mastodon in the closing seconds of “A Man Is Not His Song” or the numb throb of crudely strummed guitars on “Century.” Feist has clearly left behind the polished approach that made her an indie darling 13 years ago in favor of a sound that’s immediate, unadorned, and deeply intimate. It might not be as catchy, but it sure hits a lot harder.   v